The prevalence and concentration of many foodborne pathogens exhibit seasonal patterns at different stages of the farm-to-table continuum. Escherichia coli O157:H7 is one such pathogen. While numerous studies have described the seasonal trend of E. coli O157:H7 in live cattle, ground beef, and human cases, it is difficult to relate the results from these different studies and determine the interrelationships that drive the seasonal pattern of beef-related human illnesses. This study uses a common modeling approach, which facilitates the comparisons across data sets, to relate prevalence in live cattle to raw ground beef and human illness. The results support an intuitive model where a seasonal rise of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle drives increased ground beef prevalence and a corresponding rise in the human case rate. We also demonstrate the use of these models to assess the public health impact of consumer behaviors. We present an example that suggests that the probability of illness, associated with summertime cooking and handling practices, is not substantially higher than the baseline probability associated with more conventional cooking and handling practices during the remainder of the year.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Animal Science and Zoology